With winter in full swing and snow looming in the upcoming forecast, it’s important to be prepared for weather hazards during your commute.

Keeping a winter car kit with items to aid you in case of an emergency is essential to travel in Western New York. It’s easy to put one together. Most kits are comprised of items you may already have around your home.

Car Kit Essentials

  • Warm Clothes & Blankets – Those old sweatshirts and pants that you don’t find yourself reaching for are perfect to keep in your car.  To avoid hypothermia and help keep you warm in the event that your clothes get wet, you can use these items to layer and/or change into.
  • Flashlight – Don’t forget to keep extra batteries on hand.
  • Battery-Powered Radio – You may find yourself turning your car on and off to conserve gas.  This is a great item to have on hand, so you can stay informed of weather and road conditions.
  • First Aid Kit – Grab one at your local store or make your own.
  • Cell Phone and Charger – Be sure to store a car adapter too.
  • Highway Flares – In the event of an accident or if you get stranded, these are important to have.
  • Snow Brush or Shovel – While you may normally have a snow brush in your car, you probably don’t keep a shovel. A shovel will help you dig your car out if you become stuck. It will also help if your in one spot for a long period of time to keep your tailpipe clear.
  • Bag of Sand, Kitty Litter, and/or Chains – These will help create traction if you are spinning your tires.
  • Bottled Water – It is safer to drink bottled water than to attempt to melt snow. Snow may be unsafe to ingest due to chemicals or debris.
  • High Calorie Non-Perishable Food – Store foods with longer expiration dates in your kit for safe keeping, like nuts, candy and beef jerky.
  • Extra Fluids for Your Car – Windshield washer fluid, motor oil, transmission fluid, and brake fluid are all good to have on hand.

What to Do During a Winter Storm

Should I shelter at work? Depending on the severity of the storm and the road conditions, it’s probably a good idea.  If a travel ban goes into effect after you already made it to your workplace, you most likely will be staying for a while. Keep basic necessities such as water and food, personal hygiene items, a cell phone charger and medications with you.

If you get stranded in your vehicle, transit authorities recommend you stay in your car. Don’t try to venture out unless help is available within 100 yards. Turn the engine on for 10 minutes at a time each hour and make sure the tail pipe is clear of snow. Running the car for short bursts of time lessens the chance of carbon monoxide poisoning. Doing minor exercises can help to keep up circulation and prevent the onset of hypothermia. If you are traveling with others, take turns sleeping and huddle together for warmth.

And, like your father probably always told you, always keep your gas tank full during the winter months.  Not only does it help to keep moisture out of your gas tank, but it will ensure that you have enough fuel to keep you warm, and to get you home once it’s safe to drive.